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One factor in the World Happiness Score is generosity. I had trouble to understand what this actually means and how it enters into the score.

These were my specific questions:

  1. Does "generosity" mean that the individuals feel or are generous themselves (which feels good)?

  2. Does it mean that the individuals experience generosity by their fellow citizens (which would affect happiness in a different way)?

  3. Does it mean that the individuals experience generosity by their government or employer or other superior party?

  4. Does it mean all of this together, giving a cumulated number of some kind?

  5. Why is generosity preferred to other similar factors like fairness or solidarity?

At Politics (Beta) I got this answer:

According to https://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/changing-world-happiness/

Generosity is the residual of regressing the national average of GWP responses to the question “Have you donated money to a charity in the past month?” on GDP per capita.

But for several reasons, this question - even with regression to GDP per capita - doesn't give a good measure for generosity, I believe:

  1. Many people (in the Western world) donate money mainly around Christmas.

  2. The amount of money they donate can hardly be considered really "generous".

  3. Many people in poorer regions of the world don't have enough money to give some of it away (but possibly other things).

So my questions are:

  1. Why did "generosity" enter into the World Happiness Score nevertheless, and in the way it does? And why so prominently, on an equal footing with social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, and - also quite surprisingly - perceptions of corruption?

  2. Why is especially "generosity" believed to help quantifying "happiness"?

(Of course it's easy to believe that someone who is generous and experiences generosity is happier than someone who is greedy and experiences greed. But the same holds for fairness, solidarity, etc.)

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this sort of survey methodology is really on topic here, it isn't about psychology and neuroscience it's about survey methodology. The link you got at Politics is a good place to start for more information. Very vaguely speaking, the survey includes questions about both people's values and the actual measurements. So, in a country where people answer that they value generosity, then if a lot of people donate to charity they count that as a positive towards their happiness score. If people in a country don't value generosity then they don't count it very much. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 10 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Importantly, none of this is related to happiness as a psychological construct but as a sociological/demographic one. "Happiness" in this context is simply defined as "the measure that the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network devised as a measure of happiness." $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause May 10 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ Respondents are asked to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. The rankings are from nationally representative samples. worldhappiness.report/faq This makes the report extremely subjective, of course. Someone who expects more from society than what is possible is going to score generosity lower than someone who perceives that there is more generosity than they expected. Individual interpretation plays a part too. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers May 11 at 5:09

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